Vodafone Commits to 5G Expansion Across Scotland by 2034

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In an ambitious move following its planned merger with Three UK, Vodafone has announced a significant enhancement of its network capabilities across Scotland, targeting a comprehensive deployment of 5G Standalone (SA) technology. By 2034, the telecom giant aims to cover 89% of Scotland with this advanced network, promising a substantial boost in national productivity valued at approximately £9 billion by the end of the decade.

The announcement was made during a reception at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, where Vodafone outlined its strategy to not only meet but surpass the UK Government’s Shared Rural Network initiative. This initiative sets a baseline for bringing 4G connectivity to 74% of Scotland’s geography. Vodafone’s proposal exceeds this, aiming for over 89% coverage by 2027, with plans to transition to 5G SA by 2034.

Vodafone’s research highlights a significant digital divide within Scotland, revealing that 91% of the nation’s rural areas lack any 5G coverage, compared to 20% in urban locales. Rural Scotland is 62% more likely to be completely devoid of 5G services than its English counterparts, underscoring the critical need for infrastructure enhancement.

The rollout of 5G SA is anticipated to bring myriad benefits beyond improved connectivity, including advancements in healthcare, the stimulation of rural economies, and support for the wind power sector. Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone UK, emphasized the importance of universal connectivity, asserting that the merger with Three UK is pivotal in achieving widespread 5G deployment throughout Scotland, thereby addressing the issue of digital exclusion in rural regions.

Rachael Hamilton, the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, expressed her support for Vodafone’s initiative, noting the transformative potential of 5G technology for rural communities, especially in her constituency in the Borders. She highlighted the critical role of such advancements in bridging the urban-rural digital divide.

This development comes amidst broader efforts by the UK government and telecom industry to enhance national digital infrastructure, including the activation of upgraded 4G masts in rural Wales and ambitious targets for 4G coverage expansion across the UK by 2025. However, the pace of progress has been a point of contention, with some operators critiquing the feasibility of meeting these goals amidst challenging economic conditions and the aftermath of a global pandemic.

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